A job fair can change your life. Attending a job fair at any stage of your career—whether it's your first internship fair in college or an event for seasoned professionals to see what else is out there—can give job seekers a big boost in their job search.
If you need some more motivation to go out and find a career fair that fits your professional needs—or are considering attending a local fair and need that extra push—read our top four reasons for how a job fair can work for you.
1. You can connect with top employers who specialize in your industry.
Career fairs often specialize in certain industries. For example, our forthcoming Virtual Career Fair specializes in the tech industry. But even if you're not in tech, chances are good that there are other opportunities for you to find your niche.
Whether you are a doctor, lawyer, journalist, chef, or business woman, chances are good that there is an event for you. And because these events cater exclusively to people like you in your profession, you'll likely meet an impressive array of potential employers.
For example, our Virtual Career Fair will feature employers like E*Trade, Trane Technologies, and Rollins. Most event details will include a list of employers registered to attend, so you can browse the listing before you go to see if your dream employer made the cut—or learn about new organizations that may be worth a look.
2. You'll speak with employers who actually have openings.
Is there anything worse than toiling over a job application, perfecting your resume, writing a killer cover letter, and finally sending in your application package...only to wait...and wait...and wait forever?
The truth is, you may never hear back from many employers, and it may not be your fault. That's because many jobs that are posted aren't really open. That's right: in the hiring process, some employers may already identifying an internal candidate to fill the job but will be required to post it anyway. They may have to interview a certain number of candidates or read through a a certain number of applications, all while knowing they have actually already filled a job.
But if an employer is at a job fair, you know they are looking for new talent. Think of it as a hiring event—you could even get hired on the spot!
3. You will receive valuable advice.
While you shouldn't hog an employer's time or ask her to take a close look at your resume, you might ask for some pointers about securing an interview or finding the right position for her particular company. For instance, you might ask about how people become successful there, or what qualities the best candidates exhibit.
Since this is a lower-key environment than a formal job interview, you will get a better idea of what employers in which you are interested are looking for in employees. If you have applied to the particular employer in the past or are waiting to hear back currently, you may get a better idea of your odds for success—and what to do differently if you apply in the future.
Employers can also give you a sense of what skills you need to succeed or secure positions in the industry. They might recommend learning or taking courses in particular platforms or skills that could increase your odds of finding a position or getting ahead.
4. You will make important connections.
Networking isn't just limited to prospective employers, either. While you are waiting to talk to an important employer or during some down time, strike up a conversation with another job seeker. Like you, she is involved with or interested in going into the industry, so you will probably have a lot in common. You can also become valuable resources for each other, since you're probably both being exposed to different ideas and possibilities routinely. Perhaps a role that isn't quite right for her would be perfect for you, and she will send a valuable contact your way.
Talk to as many people as you can—employers and job seekers alike. You never know who might come through for you now or down the road. The key is making as many contacts and connections as possible.
As always, be courteous and polite to everyone you meet. Maintain professional behavior at all times. This could be an important resources in your job search, and you don't want to waste it.
If you do decide to attend a career fair at any point (and we certainly hope you do!) keep these important tips in mind:
• Prepare as though you are going to an interview. You may actually have an interview at the fair, so you need to be prepared. Rehearse (but don't over-rehearse) your key qualities and talking points. If you have one, consider bringing your portfolio. Also, make sure you are dressed appropriately. Whatever interview clothes mean to you, wear them.
• Research the event and company details ahead of time. You should find a list of companies on the event website, but go a step further and learn about the organizations, too. That way you'll have a game plan for what you'll do and to whom you'll talk. You'll also seem knowledgable about the organization itself, and, of course, you know how important it is to be prepared.
• Bring your resume. In fact, bring many copies of your resume. You'll be handing it out a lot. If you have business cards, bring those, too.
• Ask questions. Don't let the employer do all the talking; go up introduce yourself, and ask questions about the organization. This shows initiative, a key trait in great employees. Plus, you may end up learn some important information.
• Take notes. Bring a notepad, so you can write down email addresses, names, and open positions. It will be hard to remember everything, and writing it down will help jog your memory. Collect business cards as well, and make a note of whom the particular contact is and what you discussed.
• Follow up with contacts. If you have an important conversation with a potential employer, make sure to follow up with a nice note or email thanking her for her time and advice. That will remind her who you are (she will probably be meeting a lot of people that day) and what you discussed. Even if you don't end up working at the particular company or organization, she could be a valuable contact for the future.